Nov. 28, 2011
By Leah Howard, MGoBlue.com
With Michigan's next game sitting more than a month away and without a specific opponent to prepare for, head coach Brady Hoke fielded questions largely of the reflective or speculative nature at his weekly Monday press conference.
Among them? The bowl season, and if he feels Michigan is deserving of playing in a BCS game.
"We're not going to make that decision," Hoke said. "One thing I can tell you about this team, this is a team in (the Big Ten) conference that's won 10 games. It's a team by that body of work, I think, is recognizable. I like how we've played at the end of the season and how our guys have gotten ready to play and how they've represented Michigan. Those questions will be answered, but we won't have anything to do with it. We've done all that we can do. Is it deserving? Probably. A 10-win team out of the Big Ten Conference, I think that speaks for itself."
After downplaying the team's ranking and hype for much of the season, Hoke was happy to reflect on his first team -- "Team 132" -- as the Wolverines' head coach.
"I think the way they've handled themselves from a daily basis, you can see that they are gaining a little bit of confidence as a team together," he said. "That's such a big part. They've had good chemistry since day one. Awfully good leadership. (They have) done a tremendous job throughout the course of the year. I think the confidence that they've shown together means an awful lot. I think they've gone out there and played that way.
"Our goal was to win the conference championship and we didn't do that, so we got a lot more prove."
No Wolverines coach or player would deny that the 10th win -- a 40-34 decision against rival Ohio State last Saturday (Nov. 26) -- held the most meaning.
"It's an important football game at the University of Michigan," said Hoke when asked if the Wolverines needed that victory to solidify a successful season.
"It is special," said senior defensive tackle Mike Martin. "I have no regrets. My first three years leading up to this point is something I'm never going to forget and is something that has really made me better as a person and as a player. All the things that go into it, there is no place better to go to school and to earn a degree than here. It is special to have my last game here end on a good note with the seniors and all of the guys that have been through it since day one with me and really just to enjoy it with those guys. That is what makes it so special."
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The Wolverines will take the week off from practice and start bowl preparation after learning of their destination and opponent during Sunday evening's selection show (ESPN, 8:15 p.m. EST). According to Hoke, practice will focus on fundamentals and technique and likely provide an opportunity to work in some younger, less-experienced players.
As much as Monday's press conference was about reflection, it was accompanied by an evitable look to the future.
"There is a lot of development that goes on behind the scenes at practice," said fifth-year senior center David Molk. "The second team, third team, freshmen make big strides their true freshman year. Those are all things that you can see at practice. You watch the film, they get better every week. They improve on all of the little things. I'd love to see where this program grows. I see great things coming out of it. It is great to be a part of the first year, the opening year, the transitioning year, which is always the hardest. I expect only great things to come."
N O T E S
While Hoke deflected questions about potential Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, praising instead Michigan's equipment staff, athletic training staff and everyone involved in the program, his players were not shy in their stance.
"He deserves it," said Molk. "I love him, he is a great coach. He is a great mentor. He is a great friend. He is every single thing that you want a college coach to be, and he does it flawlessly."
Junior quarterback Denard Robinson accounted for five touchdowns against Ohio State, completing 14-of-17 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and carrying the ball 26 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He became the first Michigan player in the modern era to post at least two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns in back-to-back games, and the first Michigan player to score five touchdowns in 'The Game.'
"I think he's grown and matured as a Michigan quarterback throughout the course of the year," said Hoke. "I think the decisiveness that he has run the football with when he's made that decision that there's some open area or whatever has really been good the last couple weeks. I think that's helped his confidence. I thought he ran extremely hard with the ball on Saturday. When we can rush the ball for 277 yards, it helps you obviously when you get into the throw game; in the passing game, I thought he made three very good throws again. He was 14-of-17, so his accuracy and the completion rate was pretty doggone good. So I think he just keeps growing."
"He has developed as a quarterback," said Molk, "He has developed I guess as a different type of quarterback, kind of adapting to the mesh between what was last year and what is now. He has fallen into the system. He understands it now. He has grown throughout the season. He is just really developing and maturing as a player."
Junior/sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons went 5-for-5 on extra points against the Buckeyes and converted a career-best 43-yard field goal to give Michigan a 40-34 lead with 1:59 left in the fourth quarter.
"Huge, Gibbons, on that kick," said Hoke, "because there were some people who really doubted him at the beginning of the year. But he did a tremendous job all year and has grown and learned. He's got a good demeanor about him. He's worked hard."